Don’t Leave Him There

I tried to read the Christmas story yesterday. Not the one about the BB gun. The one about Jesus being born in a manger. From Luke chapter two.  I say “tried” because it took three attempts for me to get through it.

It’s such a beautiful story to me, and I wanted to hear it old-school, King James, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger” because that’s how I learned it so many years ago. And maybe it’s because I know the ending, but I just got overcome with emotion at the thought that God Himself would leave the safety and beauty of heaven to come in such a low and meager way. For me.

After several tissues and raised-eyebrow looks from my husband, I finished reading. Y’all, I felt like I’d been to church!! My heart was full, and I felt cleansed and new. And a little raw.

Still this morning, I am overcome with the joy of the Lord after a blessed Christmas Day with some of my family. I’ve read the story again this morning, sans tears and snot, and I am struck by the thought that the sweet baby in a manger is where a lot of people keep Jesus. They love the Virgin Mary kneeling over the manger of hay, full of Emmanuel, God With Us, Christmas-card perfect halo glowing around His head… But they never let the Prince of Peace grow up!

As I write, I’m hearing music in my head. New words. New music. I need to get this written down, but for now I hear a chorus that goes something like:

Don’t leave Him there, tender and small!

Don’t keep Him stuck in a manger, tiny and helpless and new.

Let Him grow up into your heart

and bring all the Love that His Father sent Him to bring for you.

Jesus did not die on a cross so that we could drink egg nog, watch movies, and spend ourselves into bankruptcy. True, our Lord loved a party and even turned water into wine at a wedding reception! But that tiny Baby in a manger came that we might have LIFE, and have it more abundantly.

The beautiful thing about our Savior is that, just like the wise men, we can bring him our gifts… The best that we have, whatever it may be… And it’s enough. And if all we have is water, He will turn it into the best wine imaginable.

He is born!!!

Christmas in a Cup

I’m a coffee girl, and I’ve already had one cup this morning. But, for some unknown reason, I decided to have a cup of tea rather than a second cup of coffee. So here I am at my desk with a cup full of Christmas. Truly! This particular tea is called Christmas in a Cup… A black tea full of spices and orange. Aromatic, warm, soothing, delicious. Just what I needed this morning! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that simple? When I’m feeling down or suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), I could simply tell the waiter, “I’ll have a cup of Christmas this morning, thanks.”

Though I’m enjoying my tea in the new cup one of my piano students gave me for Christmas (Thanks, Barrett!), I don’t think it works that way. These days after Christmas the house is still a wreck, and I can’t seem to get ahead of it. I’m feeling the aftershock of leaving a congregation I love to go to a new one, knowing that I can serve God anywhere He calls me. It still hurts. Missing my kids already, and wondering when I’ll get to see them again. Loving them so much it hurts and they don’t even know.

I think that’s how God loves us… So much that it hurts and we don’t even know. We go about our lives, especially at Christmas time like this, blissfully unaware that the One and Only God Almighty is loving us as hard as He can while we hustle for the perfect gift and bake cookies while we watch White Christmas on Netflix. It never occurs to us that God already gave us the perfect gift when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live among us… Emmanuel, God with us.

When Jesus took all my guilt and shame on Himself on the cross, He gave me the perfect gift. Eternal life. His life. Life with Him forever. He gave me Christmas in a Cup… And I drink it every time I take Holy communion when I drink the cup in remembrance of Him! Every time I take that little cup of grape juice along with everyone else in my congregation, I am experiencing Christmas all over again. Emmanuel, God with us. God’s gift of life to all who believe and accept it. And I find it aromatic, warm, and soothing. Just what I need!!!

Click here for more information on Christmas in a Cup from Elmwood Inn Fine Teas.

Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve is hard for me. I’m sad and melancholy, lonely for my kids. Times change and they grow up. They leave the house and suddenly Christmas Eve is no longer filled with giggles and anticipation, scurrying and hiding to wrap gifts, bedtimes full of sugar plum stories and the Grinch. I miss those things and so much more. That first inkling of understanding that maybe Santa is something different, something more. The sheer joy of dumping a stocking full of candy and toys and combing through to see what treasures are there.

Our Christmas Eve is quiet now, preparing food for tomorrow’s brunch and wrapping gifts to the sounds of Its A Wonderful Life and The Bishop’s Wife. The quiet is broken by worship services… mine and his. We are both church musicians, so Christmas Eve is a busy evening, but I can’t think of a better way to spend it than in worship of the infant King who’s birth we are celebrating tonight. Emmanuel. God with us.

And what a stocking full of treasures we find in that gift! Love. Grace. Mercy. Peace. Hope. Joy. Just to name a few. Gifts that we never have to take back. Gifts we can open again and again, if we open our hearts to the Messiah. Gifts that take my loneliness away. Gifts that bring peace to my spirit and joy to my heart.

My service is over. His is beginning. Both lovely, both churches full of music, full of scripture telling the nativity story, full of people seeking the King whom the angels heralded so long ago. Finding what only He can give, the Word made flesh.

And dwelling among us. Still.

To God be the glory!!!

The Loudest Voice

I’m not so sure it was a silent night. Anybody who has given birth knows that it is NOT a quiet process. When Jesus was born in that manger, was his newborn cry tiny and frail? Could Mary and Joseph hear it over the sounds of the animals in the nearby stalls? Or was His the loudest voice of all?

When my babies were born, I saw nothing in that delivery room except that baby. Did he have hair? “How small she looks!” I counted all the fingers and toes… 40 fingers and 40 toes altogether over the years. “She has so much hair and its sticking straight up!!” “Look at his back… It’s covered in fuzz and there are rolls of fat.” I was so grateful and thankful to finally get that baby here, my focus was only on him. On her. And when I heard that first cry, I laughed and cried at the same time. Every time. It’s the most beautiful sound in the world!!

I think that Jesus’ voice was all his mother, Mary, heard that night. I think the sound of cattle and sheep, chickens and donkeys, and anything else in that stable receded into the background so far that Jesus’ voice is all she heard. She was listening for it at His birth, waiting to hear that first cry. And she was grateful and thankful to God for that sweet beautiful sound!

Jesus’ love is still the loudest voice. It reaches us in the middle of all the chaos of our lives. If we listen for His voice, everything else recedes into the background and HIS will be the only voice we hear. The world would have us believe otherwise. So many other voices are thrown at us all day every day, and if we aren’t paying attention, we could miss the sweet precious voice of Jesus and His love… His love that washes us in peace at Christmas time and every other time.

Go Light Your World

Candles and Christmas go hand in hand, don’t they? We burn those jar candles that smell like balsam and fir trees or peppermint and chocolate. We put those electric candles in all our windows through the holiday season. We give them as gifts. I recently saw a sale on Yankee Candles… Five of the large jar candles for $50!! (Lots of folks excited about that one.)

At church, we have an advent wreath with candles to light for each Sunday during the advent season and a big center candle to represent the light of Christ. We use candles in ceremonies like weddings. Our church has a special candle-lighting on Christmas Eve. Everyone has a candle lit and they turn off the electric lights… It’s stunning and beautiful and moving.

I woke up with Chris Rice’s song in my head this morning, Go Light Your World. Here are some of the lyrics, but please click here to listen.

There is a candle in every soul
Some brightly burning, some dark and cold
There is a Spirit who brings a fire
Ignites a candle and makes His home

Frustrated brother, see how he’s tried to
Light his own candle some other way
See now your sister, she’s been robbed and lied to
Still holds a candle without a flame

Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, confused and torn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world

You know how when the power goes out in a storm, and you light one little candle just to be able to see… That one little candle can light the entire room!!! A little light goes a long way. And one little candle flame lights another and another… The way I see it, our “candle” is our smile. Our hug. That note of encouragement we write. That prayer we send up that he never even knew about. Our gift to the Salvation Army angel tree. The shoebox we packed for Operation Christmas Child. The meal we took to help out a little. The sandwiches we helped make at the soup kitchen. The hand we offer any time, any place. And so. Much. More.

It’s Christmas! Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Go light YOUR world.

Of Love and Angels

Here’s the thing. I am a church musician and it is Christmas time. Advent. The holiday season. I’ve been working on Christmas music for weeks, so my head and my hands are full of it. Honestly, it’s really easy for me to become jaded about Christmas music and Christmas in general. Musicians, especially church musicians, work so long and so hard on the music that we tire of it early on… just get it over with already and move on!

Not so for me. Christmas time is no different for me than any other time of the year. My music is my worship. My music is my offering to God. My music is my sacrifice of praise. At Christmas time, like every time I sit down to play, I sing the words in my head. I hear the lyrics of songs like Angels From The Realms of Glory (the song in my head this morning) and I am once again brought to my spiritual knees that God would love us, love ME, so much that He would be willing to send His one and only Son to this earth so that I could have life eternal. Forever. Never-ending.

Angels from the realms of glory
Wing your flight o’er all the earth
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth
Come and worship.
Come and worship.
Worship Christ, the newborn King!!!

The Angels who were there at the very beginning of creation are the same Angels who heralded the message that Jesus Christ was born, that God’s Son had come to earth in the form of a tiny baby. Humble, poor, human, divine.

These same Angels bid us to come close to Him and worship Him. One of the Christmas songs our choir is working on is my very favorite this season, and I am overcome with emotion every time I play it. Here are a few lyrics from this precious lullaby.

Love came gently, soft as a baby
Born to a lowly virgin girl
Wrapped in rags and laid in a manger
Love came gently to our world

No applause, no fanfare of trumpets
Heralding Hope had come to earth
For the Promise tenderly entered
Choosing, instead, a humble birth

My newborn grandson has been here with his mommy for a couple of weeks, which gives me a whole different perspective on Jesus’ choice to come to this world as a newborn infant. Completely dependent on his mother for every need. Soft and warm, snuggling up to his mother’s neck as she kisses his head. All of His divinity and Lordship packed into a tiny 8 pounds of vulnerability. “Love came gently, sweetly, to save us, knowing the price He’d have to pay. And to all who trust in the Savior, Love comes gently still… Today.”

Here’s the thing. I am a church musician and it is Christmas time. Advent. The holiday season. I’ve been working on Christmas music for weeks, and my heart is full of it!!!

Angels From the Realms of Glory Words by James Montgomery and music by Henry T. Smart.

Love Came Gently Words and music by Marty Funderburk.

Waiting…

Waiting for a baby to come is worse than waiting for Christmas. We KNOW Christmas is December 25th. We DON’T know when the baby will come. My reluctant (overdue) grandbaby is content where he or she is at the moment. Of course that could change any time, but for now… We wait, which requires patience, which is not my best thing.

Waiting for a text or a phone call that they’re headed to the hospital… Well, it’s a little nerve-wracking. I’ve been working on a quilt for this new little precious life, but I’m almost finished with it. I’ve washed up all the baby things that need to be packed for our trip. I’ve tried to stay busy so I don’t notice the waiting so much. I think we do the same thing with God. We pray for God to intervene in our lives or a situation, and then we wait. We don’t know when or if God will choose to intervene or how He will do so, we just lay it before Him and “wait in expectation.”

Psalm 5:3 – In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice, in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

We know we can go to God and give Him all our best and worst. We can ask in boldness and without fear, and then we wait in expectation, just like we are waiting expectantly for this baby, keeping an eye on our phones for a sign that things are happening. When we pray, we can wait with that kind of expectation! Knowing something will happen eventually if not soon. Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, looking for an indication that our situation or circumstance is changing, that God is moving in our lives.

I have a Mr. Rogers Neighborhood song in my head… “Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting, while we’re waiting for something new to do.”

Featured image: drawing of my son at age six, waiting for Christmas.

You’ll Love It

The moment I wondered about has come… That moment when I sit staring at a blank screen thinking, “I can’t write about that song again!” That moment when I’m faced with choosing something else, because there are always songs running in my brain, or being true to my mission here, and trusting The Lord to give me the words. With my tongue in my cheek I’m wondering if God is trying to tell me something, because I’m hearing the harps eternal again. Again.

Different line, on a loop… “Hallelujah, Praise the Lamb! Sing Glory!” I love that my spirit sings praise to The Lord even while I’m sleeping. And I don’t mind that it’s the same song, because didn’t my own kids do that with me? “Read it again, mom!” The same story, over and over. Same thing with a song… Singing it over and over. And I love that the musician in me is listening, not just hearing. I’m listening to all the vocal parts and the way it’s all put together, even in my head.

Mostly, I love the fact that one day God will call me to himself, and I will truly hear the harps and the angel songs and add my voice to the myriads singing praise to the Lamb and to the King. When it’s time. In His time, not mine. Which reminds me of an old worship chorus we used to sing…

in His time, in His time
He makes all things beautiful
In His time
Lord please show me everyday
As your teaching me your way
That you’ll do just what you say
In your time

Not sure I got all the words right there, but He does make all things beautiful in His time. Not mine. A little like a child waiting for Christmas… Anxious, worried, nervous, fretful… And all the while mom or dad have it all planned and prepared and they know it’s going to be wonderful and you’ll love it!

The featured image is my great-niece, Julia (left) and my granddaughter, Molly (right) waiting for Christmas. It’s gonna be awesome!!!!